Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Exponents give Auckland something to celebrate

Best news of the (Auckland) holiday weekend? The Exponents have played their last gig. Thank Bacchus for that!

Orewa IV. What's the guts?

Any picks on the topic for Don Brash's 'Orewa Speech' this avo? Immigration, says the Herald, who suggest the line will be: "Western ideals such as personal liberty and New Zealand's belief in the importance of a secular society could be compromised by immigration."

I sure hope not.

New face, still running in

The French woman who received revolutionary facial transplant surgery after having her own face mauled by a dog is out and about, and restarting her life.

[One] of her surgeons, Bernard Devauchelle, said: "Her facial expressiveness is slowly returning and she is talking quite clearly, but has some problems with the letters P and B, which require the lips. "She certainly does not look like the living dead. She's eating and drinking without dribbling."

I bet this link to her photo and story is the most popular link today... [Hat tip Daily Pundit]

Linked Article: My strange life with someone else's face - Sunday Times

Evil sells burgers

Some libertarian friends are debating the sign on the left. The question at issue: just how appropriate is it to use symbolism from a regime under which 30 million people were murdered and a whole world was under threat just in order to sell burgers? CR sees nothing wrong:
The hammer and sickle has hardly been a potent icon since 1989 so if it is deemed effective in marketing burgers......who cares? On the basis that freedom is indivisible what possible grounds do a group of freedom lovers have to question another party's sense of propriety?
If the marketing tool is effective in attracting patrons.......good luck to the business owners. If it ceases to work for them then the tool will be abandoned. Who knows the next ploy could be...."Saddam's Sausages" "Bush Burgers" (Whoops that cannot be appropriate). Years ago I knew a polio victim who ran a fish and chips shop, his own banner referred to "Cripple Cut Chips"......the pun did his cashflow
no end of good.
RT sees the funny side: "Imagine how utterly gutted the communists must be feeling seeing their beloved symbol smacked onto a capitalist burger shop." BKD objects, and puts the case against:

Using the hammer and sickle in a billboard reduces the iconography of evil into a marketing gimmick. While future evils can be prevented by ridiculing or trivializing them in the present, past evils can not, because to diminish them diminishes our historical memory of evil and its works. If we become familiar with a symbol in a happy context (and food is primal happiness), then how can that symbol shock us? And if the emblem of Stalin will not shock us, then for how long can Stalinists be stigmatized and isolated? A generation of children is growing up in a society where Che, Castro, a yellow star, and now a hammer and sickle are popular iconography: the stuff of tee-shirts and Happy Meals. Who will explain to these children just what these men did, just what was done under those banners? We are annihilating our historical memory by hiding it in plain view.

"The People Have Spoken" says the billboard. Which people? Natan Sharansky? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? Does nobody remember what happened to these people when they spoke? And those two lived. The Burger Fuel marketing team may consider itself brave by courting controversy. But real bravery is acting against evil that can do you harm. To the thousands and more who risked – and those who lost – everything they loved on Earth by denouncing the Soviets, by denouncing the hammer and sickle, this billboard is a contemptuous insult. What you we were willing to risk your life to destroy, we will use to sell burgers.

So yeah, I can see something wrong with this billboard. And I'm fucked if I'm going to let it go unchallenged. Who's with me?

Would it be any different if it was a swastika instead of a hammer and sickle? Would you drink at the Lenin Bar if it was called 'Hitler'? Would you?

UPDATE: Here's a discussion between two characters, Bolshevik firebrand Andrei Taganov, and the individualist heroine, Kira, from Ayn Rand's early 'Soviet' novel We the Living:
[Andrei:] "I know what you're going to say. You're going to say, as so many of our enemies do, that you admire our ideals, but loathe our methods."
[Kira:] "I loathe your ideals."
"For one reason, mainly, chiefly, and eternally, no matter how much your Party promises to accomplish, no matter what paradise it plans to bring mankind. Whatever your other claims may be, there's one you can't avoid, one that will turn your paradise into the most unspeakable hell: your claim that man must live for t he state."
"What better purpose can he live for?"
"Don't you know," her voice trembled suddenly in a passionate plea she could not hide," don't you know that there are things, in the best of us, which no outside hand should dare touch? Things sacred because, and only because, one can say: 'This is mine'? Don't you know that we live only for ourselves, the best of us do, those who are worthy of it? Don't you know that there is something in us which must not be touched by any state, by any collective, by any number of millions?"
He answered: "No."
"Comrade Taganov," she whispered, "how much you have to learn!" More here.
Interestingly, the wartime Italian Fascists made a film of this 'Anti-Soviet' novel (from which the photo above of Kira and Andrei comes) that rated so well and about which Mussolini was so proud that it was shown to Joseph Goebbels. 'You fools,' Goebbels was reported to have said, 'it's not just anti-Soviet, it's anti-all-of-us!' Goebbels at least was under no illusions about what Communism and Nazism had in common. (Stories about the film here and here.)

Ayn Rand: Pulp Fiction

Ayn Rand was once a certified pulp fiction author. There's the proof, above. That classic cover is from a rare copy of a particular piece of pulp that republished Ayn Rand's novelette Anthem as its cover story for the month. [Hat tip Atlas Society]

Links: Rare Anthem pulp magazine cover - Atlas Society
Anthem at the Noble Soul website

Monday, 30 January 2006

Second-biggest, brightest Objectivist mag now online

The new-look second-best* Objectivist magazine in the world is just out, and editor Robert Bidinotto is excited (that's a picture of the cover there on the left). "The magazine is bigger, more graphically appealing, and, I think, more interesting than ever before," says the editor. What's more, it's all online -- just follow the link from 'The Bidinotto Blog':
Of course I'm biased [says Editor Bidinotto], but I love the variety and quality of material in this issue [of The New Individualist]:

*David Kelley... answers the complaint of a fellow Objectivist who believes Kelley is not tough enough in his criticism of Islam.

* Ed Hudgins takes on advocates of "creationism" and "intelligent design"...

* I conduct a long interview with Scott Bullock, the attorney for the Institute for Justice who represented beleaguered homeowners in the recent Supreme Court decision on eminent domain, Kelo v. City of New London; the interview provides an inside look at the decision, and the prospects for property rights in its wake.

* Classics scholar Bruce S. Thornton challenges multiculturalists, postmodernists, and Islamist critics and their "Indictment of the West."

* Robert L. Jones surveys the field of pop music post-Sinatra, and finds that "the standards" are undergoing a big revival. He reports in "Raising 'the Standards'."

* The VodkaPundit, Stephen Green, explains how he became such a popular blogger -- and how you can, too -- in "Bathrobe Individualism."

* Sara Pentz reviews the book Ready, Aim, Right! by Objectivist businessman/talk host Jack Criss.

* David M. Brown reviews an excellent new self-help book by David Henderson and Charles Hooper, Making Great Decisions in Business and Life.
All sounds good, and all online. So what are you waiting for?

Linked Post : Latest issue of The New Individualist is online - Robert Bidinotto
* I know you've been wondering: What's the world's very best Objectivist magazine? Answer: The Free Radical of course -- politics, economics and life as if freedom mattered. Subscribe now!

Sharples still wants something for nothing

Both Lindsay Mitchell and David Farrar are excited by today' Herald headline: Fresh from enjoying some of the benefits of modern medicine, Maori Party leader Pita Sharples vows war on culture of dependency":
Dr Sharples said there was too much dependency on welfare in Maoridom - something Labour had not addressed. "It's like a kid - if you keep giving your kids everything, at the end of the day they don't have the skills and knowledge to do it themselves." More prisons and welfare agencies were not the solution, he said.
Says Mitchell: "He is right. The proportion of Maori on benefit is steadily rising. Four in ten single parents on welfare are Maori. And that will affect coming generations. But this isn't the first time Pita Sharples has made these encouraging noises." No, it's not, and neither is it the first time commentators have taken Maori Party utterances at face value.

Speaking to the Listener last year for example, Sharples's co-leader Tariana Turia said their party
is telling people they have to stop allowing the state to take over their lives... Labour has always believed the state will provide. Labour has kept our people trapped in dependence. This so-called welfare state has not done us any favours. We didn’t want welfare. We wanted independence.
Great stuff. Except for one thing: neither Tariana nor Sharples means by that what they've been taken to mean, as I pointed out at the time:
[Tariana's] idea of ‘independence’ is one that is funded by taxpayers. She still wants Maori to suck off the state tit, she just thinks the manner of the suckling needs to change: "[W]e believe we have a right to rangatiratanga, as guaranteed under Article Two.” What exactly does she mean by that? “It’s our firm belief that money being spent on Maori needs to be unbundled. It is being spent on them, on behalf of them, but not effectively. It’s a waste of public money… We’re just tired of it. We also think there is a more effective way of spending that money.”

Well, she’s partly right. It is a waste. As Charles Murray pointed out in 1984, from the late sixties to the early eighties the so-called War on Poverty in the US spent almost the equivalent of the country’s entire Gross National Product on ‘relieving poverty’ and it didn’t. “That’s $3,800,000,000,000 – enough to give every poor person in America $117,000 [in 1984 dollars] to start his own war on poverty.” It didn’t. A similar calculation here would I’m sure show a similar result. Said PJ O’Rourke of the lesson learnt: “You can’t get rid of poverty by giving people money.”

And you can’t pretend it’s not welfare just by calling it rangatiratanga. Whatever 'unbundling' might mean it's clear she's not calling for welfare spending on Maori to end.

So the Maori Party is in favour of race-based funding, then? “For sure. Unabashed, upfront,” says her co-leader Pita Sharples. So it's clear what the Maori Party wants is independence and ‘rangatiratanga’, and they want someone else to pay for it. So much for independence. Rongo Wetere has recently given a master-class in what this kind of independence means. So what's new?
What's new is that everyone seems to want the Maori Party to be saying what they want them to say. But these puppies are not the people that some of you would want them to be. It's worth re-reading LibertyScott's fisking of the Maori Party platform for the last election to remind yourself what they're really after. And don't forget Sharples's denial in his maiden speech that Maori are privileged before the law -- "It strikes me as somewhat amazing that half the country and probably half of this House actually believes that Maori are the privileged group within our society," said he before the House and truckloads of cheering tangata whenua in the gallery.

Amazing. No,
what he and is MPs are after is more legal privilege and more "resources" for tangata whenua -- ie., more taxpayer dollars -- just spent in "a more effective way."

What they're after in short, what they've always been after, is Rangatiratanga -- ie., independence -- but at someone else's expense: Yours.

UPDATE: Oh Crikey comments on Sharple's latest:
Fighting words and a laudable aim but somewhat hypocritical, IMO, considering his party voted FOR Labour's Working for Families package which further entrenches welfare, even for middle income earning families.
Another fair point, although I would lose the word 'somewhat,' and even the word 'hypocriticat.' The man knows what he's about. As Ayn Rand used to say, don't bother to examine a contradiction, ask yourself only what it achieves -- what Sharples is after is a Browntable of influence with himself and his colleagues sitting at the head dispensing the scraps.

Links: Sharples vows war on culture of dependency - Herald
Modern Day Maori Wars - Lindsay Mitchell
Maori Party declares war on dependency culture - David Farrar
Rangatiratanga - at whose expense? - Not PC
Maori Party = Marxism - LibertyScott
Sharples talks shit - Not PC

Sunday, 29 January 2006

Naif at the finals

No one gets to the final of a Grand Slam tennis event by being as naive as Marcos Baghdatis appears to be; no one could be the court jester he sometimes appears, and still have the ability and composure to fight his way past two of the world's top five players to make the final.

Don't forget, Baghdatis is no rural peasant; a former Australian Open junior champion, he was taken to France at fourteen to learn his tennis -- and we all know just how cunning and deceitful the Frogs can be. (Just ask Amelie Mauresmo's erstwhile opponents, too many of whom retired hurt for a decent conspiracy not to get some legs.) Here's another example of French cunning:
Asked at courtside whether he would be watching his potential opponent in [his next match after beating Andy Roddick], the unconventional Baghdatis said with a smile: "I think my coach will be watching and I'll be sleeping with my girlfriend."
Don't believe a word of it: I'll bet he watched every point with a notepad and laptop hard at work in front of him. That's not to say his girlfriend wouldn't tempt him -- she could make a cripple dance -- but he knows he has a job to do before getting on the job. Doesn't hurt though to let your opponents think you're someone other than who you are; Baghdatis for them has been something of an unknown quantity among the machine-made opponents most of them meet at most tournaments, and his advantage is to play up the 'surprise factor.'

I'll be shouting on his side later tonight. How 'bout you lot?

Links: Gold standard meets a mercurial rising star - The Age

Have a drink. Have an Asahi.

Been drinking Asahi 'Super Dry' beer all weekend. Imported by CUB, it's around and it's affordable.

Fine stuff. Wonderfully refreshing -- perhaps just a touch sweet -- and a very subtle malty after-taste.

A perfect accompaniment to the summer -- and it goes just fine with Miso soup.


Holiday post-mortem

I've just been reflecting on our summer holiday with friends: Eight friends, one house, ten days. Two are now in marriage guidance, one in purdah, one in counselling and on medication for depression, and one has had to go to a Buddhist retreat to get himself together.

Three of us had a ball, however. Great fun. :-)

Saturday, 28 January 2006

PC at the Aussie Open

Tennis commentary cracks me up every time they talk with a straight face about linespersons and ballspersons.

Looking forward to a weekend of great TV tennis action; full of fairy tales, fightbacks, grim struggles, dazzling briliiance ... and linespersons and ballspersons.

"Thank you linesmen. Thank you ballboys." Sounds so much better, doesn't it.

Wrong on Rand - Hicks

I read the piece on Ayn Rand posted here yesterday and laughed. A piece so wrong and written so poorly -- smearing Rand in an attempt to smear American values -- that I just had to laugh. Stephen Hicks however was not so amused, and he dashed off a letter to the editor in response:

Ayn Rand provokes strong disagreement. Fine. But if one is to disagree, one should first get clear about the position one is disagreeing with.

On that count, Julian Edney fails to rise to the basic level of competence.

In his first three paragraphs on Rand, I count five errors.

Edney suggests that FEMA's inadequacies are an application of Rand's views. Yet obviously Rand was one of the great opponents of bloated and bungling government bureaucracies.

Edney states Rand rejects "the common good." Yet Rand makes clear that there are common goods--and that she opposes those who would sacrifice private goods for the sake of their visions of the common good.

Edney states that she prescribes not helping. Yet Rand went out of her way to explain that she opposes only sacrificial helping and the use of compulsory transfer programs to help those in need.

Edney points out that she favors "selfishness" and "greed." And certainly she does--as long as one carefully defines those baggage-laden terms--but Edney simply assumes hackneyed and prejudicial definitions.

He then identifies Rand as a follower of Nietzsche, oblivious of the fact that the major theme of her breakthrough novel, The Fountainhead, is a rejection of Nietzschean power and its consequent social darwinism.

This is journalism?

Difficult issues and subtle distinctions are at work here, yet Edney seems to have no interest in grappling with them. From the above errors he moves seamlessly to indulging himself by uncritically passing on rumors picked up from Jeff Walker's diatribe.

Edney is right about one thing: It is a battle over morality.

On one side are those who think strictly in terms of zero-sum warfare between rich and poor--and Edney seems a clear representative of that position. On the other side are those who think that free and productive individuals can trade to mutual advantage--and this is Rand's position.

Anyone can misrepresent and insult. Let's try to have an informed and honest debate.

Stephen Hicks

Tolling Aucklanders

NZPA: Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard, Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey and Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis have resolved to lobby the Government for permission to toll motorists on existing roads to help deal with a potential $2.3 billion shortfall on Auckland's 10-year transport plan...

SCOOP: Michael Barnett, chairman of the Auckland Business Forum, said that ... the Forum’s support for tolls is subject to the Government undertaking to review and address areas of unfairness and inequality in the current road pricing system...

Here's two views on this from two libertarians. "The call by the Mayors in Auckland to toll existing roads is a healthy one," says LibertyScott. Toll 'em, and then privatise 'em, says he. Stuff off, says Susan the Libertarian (I paraphrase just a little). "We'll end up paying twice for bugger all improvement."

So who's right?

Links: Tolls on Auckland roads 'the wrong approach' - NZPA
Any delay to motorway building unacceptable - Auckland Business Forum
Toll existing Auckland roads? - LibertyScott
Michael Barnett is dreaming - Susan the Libertarian

Thugocracy in Palestine

Isn't democracy wonderful. "Democracy: The counting of head regardless of content," as Bill Weddell used to say. Well, plenty of empty-headed Palestinians celebrating today at the victory by Hamas in the Palestinian elections -- a victory that puts the thugs and killers at the top table.

Disaster then? Jack Wheeler, the "Indiana Jones of the Right," is happy Hamas won the Palestinian elections. It's true, see:
I don’t think it’s a disaster at all. I think it’s an opportunity. I’m happy Hamas won...

It’s time to celebrate the end of moral goo, the end of pretending Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority were “people we could work with,” the end of all the evasion and desperate avoidance of reality. At last, it’s the End of Pretend.
There is that, I suppose.

Links: Celebrating Hamas - Jack Wheeler
Cartoon by Cox & Forkum
Cue Card Libertarianism - Democracy

Friday, 27 January 2006

Government bullying over pylons

NZPA: Farmers vow to fight power pylon plan
Angry Waikato farmers today vowed to fight Transpower to stop the power company erecting a series of huge pylons on their land. Yesterday the company confirmed it had chosen the western route between Whakamaru, west of Taupo, and Otahuhu, in south Auckland, for its proposed high-voltage transmission line featuring 430 power pylons, some 70 metres high, to improve the power supply to Auckland. Waikato Federated Farmers president Peter Buckley said farmers accepted Auckland needed the power but there were other ways of providing it and farmers were not ready to give in without a fight...

There's a lot to be said on this topic --amongst them a reminder that this outrageous abuse of property rights was delayed until after the election -- but I have nothing more to add to what I've already said: this is entirely necessary, but there is no reason it can't be done voluntarily; no reason at all except ignorance, and that as a government department bloody Transpower can't be bothered respecting property owners -- much easier for them to wield the big, bullying stick of big government.

Arseholes. I've described before one type of voluntary mechanism for ensuring a route through private property while respecting property owners:
When railroading was at its peak in 19th century America, railroads used to purchase 'options' from land-owners along their three or four preferred routes - options that would only be picked up once one of the routes became 'live' by having purchased 100% of the necessary options along that route. The Kapuni gasline that went through some years ago made use of similar undertakings.
Ignorance and Big Government bullying on one side vs property rights and voluntary cooperation on the other. Little wonder that in this pathetic authoritarian backwater, bullying is the chosen option. It's always easier to use the big stick when you have big government on your side, and only igorance and apathy on the other.

Links: Farmers vow to fight power pylon plan - NZPA
Pylons v property rights - Not PC, May 5, 2005
Piling on the pylon pressure - Not PC, July 20, 2005

Property_Rights, Energy

Advice for TVNZ News

Chilean TV have something TVNZ might like to borrow: a game show presenter from a show called Night of Games -- insert all-too-obvious comments here.

I guarantee that if this was the view presented every night at 6pm, I for one would be tuning in.

Of course, good, honest news reporting would also be an attraction of a sort...

A horror story about a tree, and a lynch mob

Some years ago in a regime that sometimes seems not too far away, the Soviet regime instituted neighbourhood and 'block committees' that had almost unlimited powers of retribution over residents. These committees had literally the power of life or death.

We now have something almost similar in New Zealand, as erstwhile developer George Shaw has now found out after cutting down a tree on his own land -- ie., his own tree -- and being forced to face a "restorative justice meeting" so that a legalised lynch mob could propose suitable punishment. All this under a law called the Resource Management Act that ensures trees have rights while humans don't, and that allows for a fine of up to $200,000 and a punishment of two years in jail for offences under the Act.

"It's only a tree," said one of the meeting's attendees trying to give the meeting and this country some much-needed perspective. Responded one of the fascists goons out for blood: "But he's only a human"! Sums it up, really. [Listen here to a rational account of the meeting by blogger Duncan Bayne.]

As Julian Pistorius says on his blog, "join the dots" between the loony property law we have in this small, authoritarian backwater, and the report out this week showing that cities in this backwater are rated 'severely unaffordable' due to excessive land-regulation.

Links: Public pillories tree destroyer - NZ Herald
Radio interview re. restorative 'justice' meeting - Duncan Bayne
Property Developer Almost Lynched - Julian Pistorius
Tree Frenzy - Not PC
Housing un-affordability - denying the obvious - Not PC

It still (apparently) begins with Ayn Rand

I must admit, I found this piece attacking Ayn Rand highly amusing. It's the second such piece written in recent weeks attacking Rand as a way of attacking the US -- and like the earlier piece (which I can't lay may hands on just at present) the author of this one (a Los Angeles college teacher, wouldn't you know) goes out of his way to get everything about Rand wrong. If you have a drink in your hand, you should be able to devise your own drinking game.

Linked Rant: Culture of corruption: the legacy of Ayn Rand

"Portrait' - Feng Qi

Wonderful portrature by a Chinese artist with the Anglicised name Zoe, Chinese name Feng Qi, with whom I dined tonight. Fortunately for Chinese artistry, the world of post-modernism passed by the Chinese art world, meaning 'old-fashioned' artistic concepts like learning your craft are still valued, and have long been taught.

I'm sure I see a touch of Wyeth in this one...

Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Housing un-affordability - denying the obvious

This is why the Head of Local Government NZ is paid so much -- to deny the bloody obvious:
RADIO NEW ZEALAND: Local Govt NZ says council regulation not to blame for house price rises The 2nd International Housing Affordability Survey [discussed here yesterday at Not PC] says New Zealand prices increased by around 15% in the last year alone and concludes the principal cause is "excessive land use regulation that strangles housing markets." It blames excessive land use regulation and restrictions on expansion of urban centres... However, Local Government New Zealand President Basil Morrison says house price rises are being driven by other factors...
Crap, says one of the authors of the study. "'Loony' policies are responsible for New Zealand houses being among the most unaffordable in the world," he says -- and of course he's right; the RMA itself being the very acme of land-use looniness. The report itself makes clear that it is precisely government policies restricting land supply and land use that are making housing relatively unaffordable in NZ and elsewhere. That graph (above) from the report tells the whole story -- cities with government-created land supply restrictions in red; those with none or few restrictions in green; afforability (measured by how many times more the median house is in that city than the median income) up the scale.

That'd be Auckland, tenth from the right on the graph. Can you see that, Basil, you blind, bloody cretin? At least TVNZ reported it straight, and got an alternative view to bloody Basil.

Linked Articles: NZ Housing affordability "in crisis" says report - Not PC
Local Govt NZ says council regulation not to blame for house price rises - Radio New Zealand
Kiwi houses pricey, survey shows - Dominion
City housing "severely unaffordable" - TVNZ
2nd Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey (2006)

All hail the Industrial Revolution!

Life before the Industrial Revolution was shit. Really shit. There's just no other word to describe it. As Andrew Bernstein explains in The Capitalist Manifesto, it was really shit for a really, really long time:
Prior to the advent of industrial capitalism (in roughly the 1760s) the lot of the English working class was generally miserable. Utter destitution was rampant, literal starvation not uncommon and the country was overrun with paupers. “There was, in point of fact, widespread poverty of the most abject kind in England and other countries of 18th century Europe.” It is difficult for men in the industrial West today to conceive of the kind of poverty that was widespread in pre-capitalist Europe. By a test employed in Lyons, France, in the 17th century, poverty was reached when daily income was less than the daily cost of minimum bread requirement – in other words, when a person could not make enough money to buy a crust of bread.
Life for the least of us in the modern world is vastly better than it was even for Kings and Queens in the pre-Industrial era; whatever iniquities there were in the Industrial Revolution itself (which were far, far less than you've probably heard), we have that revolution in human affairs to thank for our own health, wealth and comfort -- and our ability not just to buy a crust of bread, but to worry instead about obesity and over-eating!

When exactly did the Industrial Revolution start? Gregory Clark suggests perhaps a century before previously thought:
Comparing wages with population, however, suggests that the break from the technological stagnation of the Malthusian era came around 1640, long before the classic Industrial Revolution, and even before the arrival of modern democracy in 1689...
What caused the revolution? Tyler Cowen suggests it was an increase in agricultural production (following the Enclosure Act), hence the huge rise in population, and for the first time in millennia a tiny though significant growth rate of 0.35% per year. This set the scene for that grand moment in human affairs when human ingenuity was for the first time in history free to transform human life on a mass scale, and to make the world over. With the Industrial Revoution, human life would change for the better. Vastly improved Life expectancy is just one measure of that dramtic improvement:
The Industrial Revolution brought not only increasing wealth, but a dramatic lengthening of life expectancy and fall in infant mortality — in other words, an unprecedented growth in population. The population economist Julian Simon likes to point out that graphs illustrating population growth and life expectancy in the West look nearly identical. From 8000 B.C., the line is nearly horizontal. Then at about 200 years ago, it turns up like a rocket. Life expectancy jumped from under 30 years to over 75. The growth in world population is equally dramatic...

Yet during the acceleration in population growth, industrial society got better and better...

The solution to this apparent paradox lies in the fact that, as Ayn Rand so often reminded us, man's basic tool of survival is reason. Man is a creator. That solution overthrows any notion of a conflict of interest between human beings. Every person, being equipped with a mind, is a potential problem solver and not just a consumer of resources. Thus, we should expect that more people will solve more problems, make more scientific discoveries, invent more things that make life better. That is exactly what happens...

When you realise the extent of the improvement in life and life expectancy brought about by the Industrial Revolution, and the almost limitless hatred and ignorance directed towards it by assorted hippies and other human ballast, you might find yourself agreeing with Ayn Rand that all of us and especially "those hippies should get down on their knees and kiss the dirtiest, grimiest smokestack they can find." Everyone over the age of thirty-five owes that smokestack and others just like it for their lives.

Linked Articles: The destitution of pre-capitalist Europe - Andrew Bernstein, excerpted from his book, The Capitalist Manifesto
Misreading the Industrial Revolution - Lawrence Reeed
When did the Industrial Revolution start? - Tyler Cowen
Was there an Industrial Revolution? - Tyler Cowen
The population problem that isn't - Sheldon Richman

De-Motivate Yourself; Annoy Your Friends

Hahahahaha. Here's a whole series of demotivational posters, desktops and 'Motivational Framed Lithos' to give your friends. [Hat tip good ol' Stephen Hicks.] Some of the best:

Linked Posters: DEMOTIVATORS: The Therapeutic Context of the Next Millennium

Exporters pay price for 'inflation fighting'

From our "told you so, but wish I didn't have to" department: Last time Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollocks hiked interest rates I asked Reserve Bank supporters: "Does anyone else wonder at the sanity of strangling the backbone of our economy -- producers and exporters -- in order to deal to 'the profligate household sector'? Is that sane?"

Lots of people said lots of things in lots of places about how producer and exporters just had to be strangled in order to save us all from the inflation monster... now we're starting to see Alan Bollock's strangling taking effect -- not on inflation, but on producers and exporters.
HERALD: Jobs lost as high dollar hits exporters
The high New Zealand dollar has claimed the jobs of 177 workers after three exporters said they could no longer compete against cheaper overseas competitors. Companies in Auckland and Christchurch yesterday announced layoffs as the high dollar made them unable to foot it on international markets...
But 'too fast growth causes inflation' you say? Interest rates just had to be hiked, you say? Well, no it doesn't. And no they don't. Alan Bollocks -- strangling producers and exporters for no reason other than economic ignorance.

Links: Jobs lost as high dollar hits exporters - Herald
Denying prosperity by misunderstanding inflation - Not PC
Too-fast growth is bad. Right? - Not PC


Heading down to Coromandel later today to get rained on for a couple of days, so won't be blogging. Try and manage without me while I'm gone. :-)

Monday, 23 January 2006

'Change' at TVNZ. Ho hum.

Apparently the Government TV News is appearing tonight with Judy's replacements in the seatne -- if Judy was the Mother of the Nation I suppose these two might be the Niece and Nephew.

Unfortunately, as I don't watch Government TV News, I really don't care and won't be commenting. But feel free to let fly below, and to have a look at Metro's new cover (courtesy Gen XY), celebrating Bill Ralston doing for TVNZ what he'd previously done for Metro.

Bad news just in from Helengrad

The good news from Helengrad this morning is that the bureaucrats are all away from work today -- it's the Wellington Anniversary holiday, and they're all away from their desks. Hooray!

The bad news is that Helen herself is back from holiday, and according to The Press,
Helen Clark is vowing to fight for a fourth term as prime minister. Speaking on her return from holiday, Miss Clark, has confirmed she wants to retain the leadership till the next election at least. "I've been telling everyone who rings that I have every intention of contesting a fourth term."


Linked story: Clark guns for another term as PM - The Press

NZ Housing affordability "in crisis" says report

The 2006 report on worldwide housing affordability finds that "Housing affordability continues in crisis intensity in many markets. The most pervasive national crisis is in Australia, while the crisis is nearly as serious in Ireland, New Zealand and the UK." The major cause of housing unaffordability in these markets, says the report, is "land strangulation," and is contrasted with more affordable housing markets in some parts of North America in which land regulation is much more laissez faire.
Of the six countries and one hundred major urban property markets covered, 24 are affordable, 23 moderately unaffordable, 11 seriously unaffordable and 42 severely unaffordable.

All the major urban property markets of New Zealand are severely unaffordable, as is the major city of the Republic of Ireland, Dublin. Of the Australian urban markets, six are severely unaffordable, with two being seriously unaffordable. The United Kingdom has just one moderately unaffordable market, with the other eleven being severely unaffordable. Canada has three affordable, four moderately unaffordable, one seriously unaffordable with Vancouver being severely unaffordable. The huge and diverse United States has twenty one affordable markets, eighteen moderately unaffordable markets, eight seriously unaffordable and twenty severely unaffordable urban markets.

All the affordable markets are in North America, with three in Canada and twenty one in the United States. There are no affordable major urban property markets in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand....

The 2006 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey illustrates how affordable most urban markets of the countries surveyed were five, ten and twenty years ago. Its findings suggest that the major cause of the loss of affordability within these markets is due to artificially strangled land supply.
So, how about a show of hands in ending the land strangulation effected by local councils under the RMA: Those for abolition of the RMA, replacing it with common law protections of property rights, hands up now. Any opposed?

[UPDATE: Oh look, some joker has issued a press release. And here's another, from the report's authors.]

Linked Report: 2nd Annual Demographia INternational Housing Affordability Survey (2006)
Housing Affordability Crisis in New Zealand - Hugh Pavletich

NZ bird flu update

NEWS: The Ministry of Health confirmed at a packed press conference this morning that over four million New Zealanders do not have bird flu. A Ministry spokesman confirmed with disappointment that "four million New Zealanders are healthy, happy and free from symptoms that we predict they will soon have. But just you wait -- Y2K will have nothing on this."

Unnaccountably, some journalists ignored the Ministry briefing, and in what must be a first time, looked instead at the facts [Hat tip Avian Flu Blog].

Link: World Health Organisation Avian Flu Fact Sheet

Jeanette feels self-important

And now, from our Humour & Myth Department: Jeanette Fitzsimplesimons absurdly megalomaniacally titled 'State of the Planet' speech given at Blenheim over the weekend.

"Getting richer is not making people happier," she says. New Zealanders have "blood on their hands" because... well, just because Jeanette says so really. It's a bit hard to fathom. The New Zealand military should have intervened earlier in East Timor, but it shouldn't have at all in Iraq; we shouldn't even have a military, but we should send a frigate to protect the whales. Trees are good and we really, really need the Carbon Tax to make sure industry is strangled (but aren't trees bad, and methane the bigger problem?)

"The Labour-led Government," Fitzsimons also declared, "was unable to be more than a 'caretaker' Administration," and it had "no obvious new ideas, no vision for creating a more habitable world... It is a Government which will be notable mainly for preventing a National agenda rather than for implementing anything positive." Now there at least we can agree -- except that as a libertarian I'm hoping the Labour-led government will be unable to implement anything at all. But I digress.

The whole speech doesn't yet seem to be online yet -- understandably neither Frogblog nor the Greens' website seem eager to embarrass themselves by posting it -- so all we can go on at present are the various media reports. Still, there's enough there to get on with. Have a browse, and treat it like a good mental puzzle, you know, something like Sudoku. Give yourself one mark for every logical fallacy, blatant contradiction, or error of fact you spot in her ramblings. Give yourself five marks for every sign of chutzpah you highlight, in which Jeanette tries to posture as the 'Mother of the Planet,' and ten points for demonstrating how implementation of Green Party policies would itself cause a 'Giant Leap Backwards' about which Jeanette herself fulminates in her speech.

Feel free to post your marks and all your answers below. Marks will be awarded for your working.

[UPDATE: Jeanette Fitzsimons State of the Planet Speech - Scoop]

Tree frenzy?

As I said here yesterday: "Don't we have great law? Head-butt a tourist in New Zealand and break his nose, and you get 'community service.' Sleep with a thirteen-year-old and you get 'community service.' But do something really serious, like cut down a tree on your own land or smoke some marijuana, and it's jail, jail, jail. Surely something wrong here, huh?"

Jump cut now to last week's Herald, to a story that never had the legs to make a genuine Media Frenzy:
HERALD: Developer facing angry community for pohutukawa destruction
A developer who ordered the destruction of a giant pohutukawa tree may be forced to face a community furious about his crime. George Bernard Shaw pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court to a charge of destroying the 100-year-old protected tree...

The charge is punishable by a fine of up to $200,000 or two years in prison, but Judge Fred McElrea deferred sentencing until February 13 for restorative justice. That process is likely to include a meeting at the Maungakiekie Community Board with those directly affected by the cutting down of the tree.
It's important thing to point out here that:
  1. the Herald's headline contains at least one piece of pure speculation: the claim for an "angry community" is at this stage completely unproven;
  2. the present District Plan's protection of native trees (ie., attempt to nationalise the district's trees) means that development sites with native trees are worth less than those without, and that native trees are seen a a financial disvalue rather than a boon -- such is the unintended consequence of the legal blunt instrument of 'protection';
  3. this wasn't just "a" pohutukawa tree, it was Mr Shaw's pohutukawa tree, for cutting down which he's already paid $50,000 to "demonstrate remorse." Given what happened to land-owner Andrew Borrett in similar circumstances, what's the bet that the February 13th sentencing sees Mr Shaw get a stiffer sentence than either the paedophile, or the headbutter.
The "restorative justice" meeting at which residents will be able to "express their feelings about the matter" (God, it's all so dripping wet, isn't it?), is to be held on Wednesday 25th, 6pm, at the Onehuga Community Centre. Blogger Duncan Bayne will be there, and he's already got a speech planned. Maybe you should join him, and help to reduce Mr Shaw's sentence.

Links: Developer facing angry community for pohutukawa destruction - Herald
Developer charged - Duncan Bayne

Public health warning: Fascism

Today's public service from 'Not PC.' Now that I've done the hard work of posting a picture sent to me by a reader (thanks Robin T.), perhaps you lot could get out there and hang copies on the doors of various government departments, and of all the political party caucuses:

Selling a glass box

"There's nothing sadder than a pub with no beer." So goes the song. Hard to believe, I know, but there is something sadder: a house on which hundreds of thosands of dollars has been lavished, and which has all the charm of an overheated glass box. And wouldn't you know it, that's just what this house is (see photo right, with a sunset to give it interest) -- 800sqm of summer house for which the sun would be an enemy.

No shade to stop the sun; no eaves to give you shade or shelter from the rain (yes Virginia, the afternoon sun in summer can be over-bearing, particularlarly through glass; yes, it does rain in Auckland) -- and devoid of delight, or character.

Shame on all involved. No wonder it's for sale, and as a consequence being talked up all over the shop.

Links: 379G Gordons Rd, Waiheke Island - AAA site
Waiheke: Waiheke's world famous secret - Herald

Sunday, 22 January 2006

Justice? In NZ? Surely you must be joking

Bet you haven't heard these reasons before for a one-night-stand you regret, or for which you're making excuses:
  • he/she was coming on to me
  • I was drunk
  • I'd just broken up with my partner/wife/husband/significant other
  • I felt sorry for him/her
  • I was depressed
  • I wasn't his/her first lay
  • I thought he/she was older than thirteen...
Huh? What's that? "Older than thirteen"? Yep, Briar Dravitski, the first woman in New Zealand convicted for sex with an underage boy pulled out the whole bag of excuses to explain why she partied with a group of thirteen-year-old runaways at her house, before taking one to bed and doing the deed on him. Twice. (And before you think the boy might really have enjoyed it, check out her photo -- but not just before lunch.)

"The boy was 17," she claimed in her defence, "but constable Bruce McIntosh, of New Plymouth police, said
there was 'absolutely no way he looked that old. "He was a kid who only turned 13 three days prior. He's a small, skinny kid, just like an average sized 13-year-old child." He said police had statements from witnesses who said Dravitski had said she had "wished he was older"... Judge Robert Murfitt described the incident as "an exploitative act" but said community work would be more appropriate than jail.

Don't we have great law? Head-butt a tourist in New Zealand and break his nose, and you get 'community service.' Sleep with a thirteen-year-old and you get 'community service.' But do something really serious, like cut down a tree on your own land or smoke some marijuana, and it's jail, jail, jail. Surely something wrong here, huh?

Linked Excuses: Why I had sex with a 13-year-old boy - Sunday Star-Times

Money for voodoo

"Money for Maori voodoo," said my correspondent who sent me this link. Whose money? Yours, naturally.
SUNDAY STAR-TIMES: The government spends more than a million dollars a year on traditional Maori therapies - and has no proof that they work.

The therapies include spiritual healing using prayer, seawater and greenstone.

Other alternative therapies, such as homeopathy and naturopathy, receive no public money.

But the government gives $1.3 million a year to 12 Maori health providers for traditional, or rongoa, services.

Y'happy with that? Arguments about 'culture' should not make your chosen cultural practices immune for rational criticism. Nonsense is nonsense, where it occurs.

Now, as to whether the Government should be spending your money and any particular therapies... now that's a different question altogether...

Linked Article: Maori healers get $1.3m for unproven cures - Sunday Star-Times

Saturday, 21 January 2006

Betrayal and biography

I've been persuaded to read a certain book that has Ayn Rand enthusiasts in a lather. I was persuaded to read it reluctantly, and I ended it enthusiastically -- but in some anger.

You can find out why in my review, here, of the book -- an examination of Rand's erstwhile biographers. If you need to be persuaded, Noodle Food's Diana calls it:
a fantastic review ... of James Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics (PARC). It's perhaps the most passionate book review I've ever read -- and thus perfectly appropriate to its subject. It's also a delight to read, so I'm pleased to strongly recommend it. Those who've already devoured PARC are sure to particularly appreciate its stubborn refusal to mince words.
I expect regular readers of Not PC would be fairly unsurprised to hear about a refusal to mince words. Read more of Diana's review of my review here. Read the review itself here. And listen to an entertaining interview with the author of PARC here.

Links: A Review of The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics - Diana Hsieh
Betraying the self - Peter Cresswell
Valliant vs Branden & Branden - Prodos interview

'Not PC' Post-Holiday Blog Carnival

There are blog carnivals for everything these days: football, philosophy, psychology, pharmacology... so as I write so much and you lot need to read it all -- every last sentence! -- I'm having my own. In the last week-and-a-few-bits 'Not PC' has had something for everyone who can read and who has a pulse and some grey matter. Here below is just some of what you would have seen recently if you'd slithered towards your keyboard and pushed the 'Not PC' button (and that's not counting all the art, architecture, cartoons and jokes). What are you waiting for, dive on in:

'ACT: the Libertarian Party'?

The other day I offered a challenge to the new ACT on Campus President Helen Simpson and her President in Charge of Vice Andrew Falloon to have the courage of their freedom convictions and to let us "hear them calling for the Association of Compulsion Touters [ACT] to expunge all vestiges of compulsion, and to truly represent its stated freedom principles." A Five Point Programme was offered...

Bird flu immunity

Beethoven Pleydenwald from the Whinging in New Zealand blog (WINZ) has been keeping an eye on H5N1 bird flu hysteria. Despite it's imminence -- it's all around us you know -- he's noted one surefire way to gain immunity: Still no H5N1 deaths amongst attractive young women who have performed fellatio on me...

Why did the whale cross the beach?

Whales are not just ungrateful, they're also not the sharpest mammal in the biosphere. While mass whale strandings are greeted with surprise and sadness around the world, they still just keep right on happening. And sometimes whales are so ungrateful even to be rescued they they just up and turn around and re-beach themselves. One pod yesterday was even graceless enough to sink a launch...

Setting light to Nosy Parkers

I was about to prepare a post on why I will be burning my census form come Census Day -- just as I've done in previous years -- when I find that a pretty enlightening debate on that very subject has been taking place at DPF's. Get a job with The Man, says Dave, and earn a little extra money helping th Nosy Parkers. " Go piss up a rope," respond commenters including LibertyScott...

On infighting and 'fellow travellers'

Phil Sage asks a question I thought I'd already answered many times before: Why can't 'we' just all get along. Phil thinks all those "travelling in the same direction" -- whom he decribes variously as "Libertarian Travellers" and "travellers in the direction of Freedom with Responsibility" -- should stop their infighting, and work together...

Rosenbaum Floor Plan - Frank Lloyd Wright

To an architect, a floor plan is like a musical score -- all the information is there if you know what to look for, and how to read it. Frank Lloyd Wright's floor plans were incredibly nuanced, and deceptively complex. The example shown here is from the 1939 Rosenbuam House, one of Wright's forty-odd moderate cost 'Usonian Houses' -- just 143 sqm, but with the soul of a larger house packed in...

Saving those whales with good hard sense

There's nothing like an argument about whales to make everyone lose their marbles. A revivified Ruth, for example, has posted various thoughts on morality and animal rights, and on her former membership of Greenpeace. 'Go Greenpeace' she says. 'Stop the hand-wringing and break out those guns.' (I paraphrase, of course) Unfortunately, she offers no argument for her position...

Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law"

Waitangi Day is rushing down upon us, so it's worth re-posting Nick Kim's cartoon demonstrating what the mythical Treaty Principles are doing to our law (cartoon courtesy The Free Radical)... in my view the Treaty is insufficiently comprehensive to be a founding document of a nation and should be superseded and made an historical nullity by an objectively written constitution. The gravy train has to be derailed, and justice put back in its seat...

Change of helm at ACT on Campus

Congratulations to Helen Simpson and Andrew Falloon, the new president and vice-president respectively of ACT on Campus. I look forward to Helen and Andrew having the courage of what they say are their freedom convictions, and to hear them calling for...

Commenting on the commentators

Deborah Coddington has belatedly discovered blogs and has told the Herald all about it. She finds "Planet Blogger" to be nothing short of "a sad, pathetic sphere..." "I feel genuinely sorry for the blogsite hosts who strive to supply a political service the market obviously wants," she says, before scurrying back to the safety of the MSM, which clearly isn't supplying the market...

Explaining Capitalism

Perhaps the most exciting recent book for capitalists released in the last year has been Andrew Bernstein's Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire (reviewed here and here.) Capitalism Magazine has a brief excerpt up at their site: A proper understanding of capitalism is sorely lacking among current politicians, intellectuals and even the American...

Cue Card Libertarianism - Harmony of interests

As I said here recently, no man is an island and neither should we be. In a free society, we each gain an incalculable boon from the existence of others. Just some of the benefits of living in a free society are the following: the learning and knowledge we may glean from others -- being able to stand on the shoulders of geniuses...

Some thoughts on the harmony of men's interests

Did it ever occur to you that there is no conflict of interests among men, neither in business nor in trade nor in their most personal desires — if they omit the irrational from their view of the possible and destruction from their view of the practical? There is no conflict, and no call for sacrifice, and no man is a threat to the aims of another — if...

A joke at the heart of Climate Change

It's hilarious, really, isn't it. Why am I laughing? If you haven't heard already, here's the joke: plants are implicated in the 'global warming problem.' Here's how...

Careful with that harpoon, Eugene!

Want to jump on to the back of whaling boats and spike their harpoons? The entertaining Generation XY blog has conveniently linked for you a game put together by Greenpeace to give you some practice. And once you've had your fill of all that political correctness, you can get out the Hawaiian Harpoon and do some serious fishing. Sadly, no game as yet apparently to give you practice with...

Still flowing. Still in the zone.

More information on the concept of Flow - what sportsmen call 'being in the zone,' and what psychologists call a state of being in focused attention (about which I previously wrote here): here's a short interview with Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi (Dr Mike), answering questions on his work with Flow and a few more of its applications, this time for education. Money quote: Q: Why aren’t teachers...

Health, wealth & nannying

Popular Mechanics magazine has judged the top fifty inventions of the last half-century, and they're online here. And here's some tables (for the US) showing what such inventions have helped bring about -- historically significant rises in life expectancy across the course of the last century. Stephen Hicks, whose site has these links, describes the dramatic rises simply as "fruits of the enlightenment..."

Opening a whole new can of whales

We eat cows. The Japanese eat whales. The only difference is that cows are privately owned, and whales are much larger. Despite the hand-wringing over the killing and eating of whales , it's no more or less barbaric than the killing and eating of cows. Here's what really is barbaric: trying to stop whaling by sinking whalers with a 'can opener' -- as the self-appointed Sea Shepherds have...

Get rid of Queen St's trees

A storm in a 'tree-cup' going on in Auckland's Queen St over the holidays has had all sorts of people saying all sorts of nonsense -- the politically correct at loggerheads with the politically conservative over the architecturally stupid...

Reviewing Narnia

How do you write a film review? Dianne Durante gives a Master Class by giving you a 'how-to' of her own The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe review...

Too-fast growth is bad. Right?

... "the economy is slowing down after five years of, perhaps, too-fast growth." Now that's a pretty common view, and one heard from many voices -- at least one of them emanating from the Reserve Bank. 'Too-fast' growth in productivity causes rapidly rising prices, and has to be stamped down into mediocre growth, or even no growth at all. 'Too-fast' growth is A Bad Thing.
Better no growth at all, says this view, than 'too-fast' growth. But can it be true?

Bad news for NZ's economic freedom

The various Economic Freedom Indices are a pretty blunt instrument to my mind -- for some reason they still award New Zealand as a perfect 'One' for property rights, for instance, despite the many well-documented abuses inflicted upon NZ's property owners by government's both central and local. However, like all such things, while the precise figures are questionable the trend across several...

Taming the inflation monster

As you might recall, we ended the year wondering why the Reserve Bank of New Zealand is strangling growth in a bid to keep down the prices of property -- nailing producers and exporters and all the rest of us to a cross of 'price stability' that is itself a mirage. This, says Alan Bollocks and RBNZ supporters, is neccessary to underpin the currency and restrain the infltaion monster. "No!" say people with a brain...

Things we all should have learned by now

Here's something to ponder as you gaily engage in debate: How much do you really need to know in order for your opinion to be an informed one? Not all opinions are equally valid -- uninformed opinion is less equal than most. In the 21st Century, there are some basics that an educated person really should know if they're to be considered educated enough to pound sand, let alone to survive...

What I learned on my holidays, 2.

What else did I learn while I was away? Well, I learned that some bloggers don't even stop for Christmas or for intercontinental travel! Phew. That's dedication for you. I learned too that there is more than one perfect breakfast -- I found another. This one is a version of fried eggs with what the Americans call Hot Biscuits (scones to you and me) and Gravy....

What I learned on my holidays, 1.

What a great holiday. I trust you've all enjoyed my absence. Amongst my holiday reading was the new Anthony Burgess biography: mentioned is Burgess's enthusiasm for inventing what he called "life-threatening cocktails," and a recipe for one such is included -- with time available and the ingredients to hand, a number of our party felt compelled to try it out. Here, according to Burgess's biographer is a recipe for the 'Hangman's Blood'...

Thanks for stopping by!

This evening: Budvar

Crisp, light, refreshing. Those Czechs sure do know something about yeast and hops. :-)

Friday, 20 January 2006

The 'Dream' of Martin Luther King Day

What's the message of Martin Luther King Day, celebrated by Americans on Monday last? One that has a clear resonance for us here in New Zealand too. Edwin Locke reminds us of 'The Dream':
What should we remember on Martin Luther King Day? In his "I Have a Dream" speech Dr. King said: "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"...
On Martin Luther King Day--and every day--we should focus on the proper antidote to racism and the proper alternative to racial thinking: individualism. We need to teach our children and all our citizens to look beyond the superficialities of skin color and to judge people on what really matters, namely, "the content of their character."
Character is all. Skin colour is just something you're born with.

Linked Article: What We Should Remember on Martin Luther King Day: Judge People by Their Character, Not Skin Color - Edwin Locke